Biology autobiographies: how do personal subject experiences influence biology teachers' pedagogical thinking?

MOORE, Patricia Elaine (2020). Biology autobiographies: how do personal subject experiences influence biology teachers' pedagogical thinking? Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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The aim of this study was to explore practising biology teachers’ perceptions of the factors influencing their current beliefs about teaching biology and their pedagogical decisions. This was a qualitative study that used a sequence of three semi-structured interviews with each of five participants each with a range of years in post, to collect data in the form of their narratives about teaching biology. The study followed a constructivist grounded theory design to guide the collection and coding of data from the interview transcripts. A constant comparative analysis of the data was used to suggest categories and relationships between them, using abductive reasoning to generate conclusions that had the potential to inform professional practice in Initial Teacher Education programmes and approaches to early career support for teachers. The study suggested three areas of interest. Firstly, the teachers’ expressed beliefs about teaching biology and the factors that were influencing these. There was a large degree of similarity between the participants who explored the complexity and breadth of the subject; an underestimation of the subject by colleagues with other science specialisms; and the need to teach for deep understanding. In contrast to a number of other studies that identified early, informal experiences with the subject as key factors in developing biology teachers’ beliefs, the participants in this study identified their own experiences as pupils at secondary school and their growing understanding of their subject while in post as key influences. Secondly, participants told stories about the impact of working with others, including a growing empathy with, and understanding of, the individual pupils in their classes and pedagogical support from knowledgeable others. These findings are discussed in relation to research from the 1990s that argued for the importance of ‘knowing pupils’ and current literature around teacher knowledge. The thesis proposes that, what I refer to as ‘reflexive empathy,’ which involves considering how pupils might be responding to being taught the subject, is an important aspect of developing teacher practical knowledge. The final area of interest concerned participants’ perceived amount of pedagogical agency as a factor in their day-to-day classroom decision making. This is considered in relation to a theorisation of agency as contextual and situated rather than as a characteristic of the individual, and the impact of the school context is discussed. One of the significant ideas emerging in this regard was the need for explicit permission to be pedagogically innovative, whether through departmental or wider school culture or through collaborative work with colleagues. This study has implications for professional practice in programmes to support pre-service biology teachers and also supporting early career teachers, particularly in light of the introduction of the recent Early Career Framework.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Burnett, Cathy [0000-0001-6087-244X]
Thesis advisor - Bevins, Stuart [0000-0001-7139-1529]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Catherine Burnett / Dr. Stuart Bevins
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2022 14:51
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 12:32

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